Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: exercise 2

This week's exercise didn't take much time to do and didn't produce a very interesting picture, but it has so many concepts bound up in it that I thought it deserved a post all to itself. You've probably seen the Vase/Face illusion before. It's also a reliable reference for non-artists on how to switch between perceiving negative space and positive space. If you see a vase, you are paying attention to positive space. If you see two faces, you're seeing negative space.

Exercise two was to draw your own Vase/Face, with some very specific instructions:

-If you are right-handed, draw the face on the left side of the paper first. If you are left-handed, draw the face on the right side first.

-Draw the straight lines across, and copy the face you just drew in mirror image.

-While drawing, think strongly about naming the parts: This is the forehead, then the nose, etc.

Whenever I see the face/vase illusion, I usually hear them arguing:'I'm a face!' 'No, we're a vase.' 'You can be a vase if you want to, but I'm totally a face.' '

This exercise is meant to teach an awareness of R-mode, by making the baton-passing from one hemisphere to the other more difficult and therefore more noticeable. Edwards reports that most people in her classes experience a moment of hesitation or even paralysis when copying the second face, because their right brain (looking at line, tracing form, balancing space) is trying to work on the same task at the same time as their left brain. (That's the nose. Draw a nose. What are the characteristics of a nose?)

Because I am so used to shifting into R-mode1 I didn't experience any paralysis, but the feeling of difficulty was there. Usually my response to difficulty is frustration followed by chucking the whole thing out a window, but to my surprise I was mainly amused. It was the type of amusement you get from a three legged race, a 'well this is a really sort of silly way to run a race isn't it?' kind of thing.

I'm really, really interested in that emotional response, because it was so different from how I usually experience a difficult task. I typically feel blocked, vexed, and inadequate. The absence of frustration in this case was conspicuous.

One conclusion of neurology is that humans do not have one brain, we have two. Consequently, we do not have one personality. Like most people in a literate society, I spend most of my day in L-mode. This silly little exercise has left me with the interesting conclusion that frustration when faced with a difficulty may not be something intrinsic to me, so much as something intrinsic to my left hemisphere.


1(Okay, I'm just going to come out and say I hate that term. But it is the term Edwards uses. It is brief, comprehensible, and has no obvious substitute. Any suggestions?)